EAD is a data structure standard for archival finding aids that is based on the SGML (Standard Generalized Markup Language) and XML (Extensible Markup Language) standards for the creation and storage of documents. EAD-encoded finding aids will facilitate much more sophisticated navigation, searching, and retrieval of information on the Web than is currently possible using HTML. After several years of development and testing, Version 1.0 of EAD was released by the Society of American Archivists, the national association for archivists and archival institutions, last August. Not only is this new standard being widely accepted by repositories in the US, it is also being implemented by numerous institutions in Canada, the UK, Europe, and Australia. Implementation of EAD in Texas is the logical next step for the state's archival repositories in making their collection descriptions available and searchable on the Web, and, as already mentioned, is also a logical extension of a number of digital initiatives being undertaken by the Texas Digital Library Alliance.
There are many advantages to using EAD. The ISO standard on which it is based, SGML, is platform independent and nonproprietary. (ISO, the International Organization for Standardization, coordinates the work of national standards bodies for some 87 countries worldwide.) Intellectually, EAD is a community-based standard, owned by the Society of American Archivists. The Library of Congress has made a major commitment to EAD in acting as its documentation maintenance agency. EAD supports links to all types of sound, video, and graphic files, as well as textual boilerplate information. Most importantly, EAD provides a solid yet flexible structure that will encourage good descriptive practices among archival repositories. Over the next two or three years, the type of markup that serves as the basis for Web documents will evolve from HTML to XML. Since EAD is already XML-compliant, the archival community is ever so slightly ahead of the curve.
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